The 10 Most Memorable Hail Mary Plays in NFL History

The 10 Most Memorable Hail Mary Plays in NFL History

The thrill and excitement of American football are often amplified by last-minute, high-risk plays that can turn the tide of a game. Among these, the “Hail Mary” play holds a special place in NFL history. It refers to a long, desperate pass thrown toward the end zone with little time remaining, hoping for a miraculous reception. This article will explore the 10 most memorable Hail Mary plays in NFL history, showcasing the moments that left fans breathless and etched these plays into football folklore.

What is a Hail Mary play?

A Hail Mary play in football refers to a last-ditch, high-risk pass thrown toward the end zone in the hope of making a miraculous completion for a touchdown. It is typically attempted when a team is trailing in the game with little time left on the clock. “Hail Mary” originated from the phrase used in Catholic prayer to symbolize a desperate plea for divine intervention.

The Hail Mary play involves the quarterback launching a long pass deep into the opposing team’s territory, often with multiple defenders in coverage. The objective is for the receiver or receivers to outleap the defenders and make an extraordinary catch in the end zone. Given the difficulty of the play, it is considered a low-percentage attempt, relying on a combination of skill, timing, and a bit of luck.

Top 10 most memorable Hail Mary plays

The Immaculate Reception (1972)

The Immaculate Reception is perhaps the most iconic Hail Mary play in NFL history. In a 1972 playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers trailed by a score with just seconds remaining. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw launched a pass that ricocheted off a defender and was caught by Franco Harris, who sprinted into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. This play not only helped the Steelers secure victory but also changed the course of the franchise’s history.

Related content that you may be interested in:

The Miracle at the Meadowlands (1978)

In 1978, the Philadelphia Eagles faced off against the New York Giants in a game that seemed all but over. The Giants had a five-point lead with only seconds left on the clock. However, in a shocking turn of events, the Giants decided to run a play instead of kneeling to secure the win. Quarterback Joe Pisarcik mishandled the handoff, causing a fumble that was scooped up by Herm Edwards of the Eagles, who returned it for a touchdown. This play, now famously known as The Miracle at the Meadowlands, emphasized the importance of sound decision-making in high-pressure situations.

The Music City Miracle (2000)

During the 1999-2000 NFL playoffs, the Tennessee Titans faced the Buffalo Bills in a Wild Card game. Trailing by one point with only 16 seconds left, the Titans executed a lateral pass on the kickoff return, resulting in a touchdown by Kevin Dyson. Known as The Music City Miracle, this play displayed incredible teamwork and lateral thinking, propelling the Titans to victory and providing a remarkable postseason memory.

The River City Relay (2003)

In 2003, the New Orleans Saints found themselves trailing by seven points against the Jacksonville Jaguars with seconds remaining. They managed to reach the Jaguars’ 25-yard line, and on the final play, quarterback Aaron Brooks completed a pass to Jerome Pathon, who lateraled to Donte’ Stallworth for a touchdown. Unfortunately, the Saints missed the extra point, resulting in a loss. Nevertheless, The River City Relay showcased the potential for a series of precise laterals to create a thrilling and unpredictable finish.

Rodgers to Rodgers (2015)

The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions met in a crucial game in 2015. With no time left on the clock, the Packers faced a desperate situation. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers unleashed a deep throw into the end zone, which was caught by tight end Richard Rodgers for a touchdown. This remarkable connection between Rodgers and Rodgers became known as “Rodgers to Rodgers” and provided a stunning victory for the Packers, leaving fans in awe of the quarterback’s arm strength and accuracy.

The Minneapolis Miracle (2018)

During the 2017-2018 NFL playoffs, the Minnesota Vikings faced the New Orleans Saints in a Divisional Round game. With only 10 seconds remaining, the Vikings found themselves down by one point. Quarterback Case Keenum launched a pass downfield to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who miraculously caught the ball and sprinted into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown as time expired. The moment was coined The Minneapolis Miracle, a play that instantly became one of the most unforgettable in NFL history.

The Miami Miracle (2018)

In a game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins in 2018, the Patriots held a slim lead with seconds left on the clock. The Dolphins were at their own 31-yard line, seemingly too far from the end zone to threaten the Patriots’ victory. However, in a sequence of laterals and quick passes, the Dolphins reached the end zone with the ball in the hands of running back Kenyan Drake, who sprinted past defenders for a game-winning touchdown. This play, known as The Miami Miracle, left fans stunned and highlighted the unpredictability of a well-executed Hail Mary attempt.


The Miracle in Motown (2015)

In a 2015 game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, the Lions held a one-point lead with only seconds remaining. The Packers had one last opportunity, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, known for his Hail Mary prowess, launched a pass into the end zone. Packers tight end Richard Rodgers leaped into a crowd of players and managed to secure the ball for a miraculous touchdown catch. The play dubbed The Miracle in Motown, showcased the ability of Rodgers to deliver in clutch situations, solidifying his reputation as a master of the Hail Mary.

The Fail Mary (2012)

In a controversial game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers in 2012, the Seahawks were down by five points with only seconds remaining. Quarterback Russell Wilson launched a high pass into the end zone, which resulted in a scrum between Seahawks receiver Golden Tate and Packers defender M.D. Jennings. Despite clear evidence of simultaneous possession, the referees awarded the touchdown to Tate, sealing a victory for the Seahawks. This play, known as The Fail Mary, sparked widespread debate and highlighted the importance of officiating accuracy in determining the outcome of a game.

The Arizona Miracle (2015)

In an NFC Divisional Playoff game in 2015, the Green Bay Packers faced the Arizona Cardinals. With the game tied and the clock running out in regulation, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers heaved a desperation pass downfield. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson batted the ball, but it landed in the hands of Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis, who made an incredible catch for a touchdown. Despite the Packers’ eventual loss in overtime, the play became known as The Arizona Miracle and showcased the resiliency and determination of both teams.

Importance of Hail Mary plays in NFL history

Hail Mary plays hold significant importance in the history of the National Football League (NFL). They embody the essence of dramatic comebacks, game-changing moments, and the thrill of uncertainty. These plays have the potential to turn the tide of a game in an instant, leaving players, coaches, and fans in awe.

Hail Mary plays to create a sense of anticipation and excitement, as they represent the ultimate gamble for teams facing the brink of defeat. They provide a glimmer of hope when all seems lost and serve as a catalyst for unforgettable moments that become ingrained in football lore.

Beyond their entertainment value, Hail Mary plays have also impacted the strategy and mindset of teams in critical situations. They emphasize the importance of maintaining composure, executing precise routes, and displaying exceptional athleticism. Coaches and players must carefully orchestrate these plays, considering the timing, personnel, and defensive alignment to maximize their chances of success.

Analysis and Impact of Hail Mary Plays

Hail Mary plays have become synonymous with breathtaking moments, instant fame, and unforgettable memories in the NFL. These plays demonstrate the power of hope, resilience, and the unpredictable nature of football. They often involve unlikely heroes, incredible catches, and split-second decisions that can change the outcome of a game or even an entire season. Hail Mary plays not only captivate fans and leave a lasting impact but also serve as a testament to the skill and precision required by quarterbacks and receivers to execute such plays successfully.

The significance of Hail Mary plays extends beyond individual games. They have the power to shift momentum, boost team morale, and generate unforgettable moments that become part of NFL history. These plays are etched in the collective memory of football fans, forever associated with the players and teams involved. They become part of the lore and legacy of the sport, providing fans with stories to share and relive for years to come.

In addition to their entertainment value, Hail Mary plays also demonstrate the importance of perseverance and never giving up, even when the odds seem insurmountable. They inspire hope and belief, both for players and fans, reminding us that anything is possible in football.


the 10 most memorable Hail Mary plays in NFL history have provided fans with thrilling moments, incredible catches, and game-changing outcomes. From The Immaculate Reception to The Miracle in Motown, these plays embody the essence of football’s excitement, unpredictability, and ability to defy expectations. They have become an integral part of the NFL’s rich tapestry, forever etched in the memories of fans and serving as a reminder of the magic that can unfold in the final moments of a game.


1. How does Hail Mary’s play impact the outcome of NFL games?

Hail Mary plays can potentially turn the tide of a game in an instant, leading to game-winning touchdowns or crucial points that can change the final score.

2. Who holds the record for the longest completed Hail Mary pass in NFL history?

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers holds the record for the longest completed Hail Mary pass, with a 61-yard touchdown throw to Richard Rodgers against the Detroit Lions in 2015.

3. What factors contribute to the success of a Hail Mary play?

Factors that contribute to the success of a Hail Mary play include the quarterback’s arm strength and accuracy, the receivers’ ability to outleap defenders, proper timing, well-executed routes, and a bit of luck.

4. Are Hail Mary plays commonly successful in the NFL?

Hail Mary plays are generally low-percentage attempts due to the challenging nature of the throw and the number of defenders typically present in the end zone. Successful completions are rare and rely on a combination of factors aligning perfectly.

5. How do Hail Mary’s plays create memorable moments for fans?

Hail Mary plays create memorable moments for fans by providing high-stakes drama, breathtaking athleticism, and the thrill of witnessing the seemingly impossible become reality. These plays captivate fans with their uncertainty, intense battles between players, and the euphoria that follows a successful completion.

Thank you for reading.

Leave a Comment